Login | April 21, 2019


Pete’s World

Published: May 14, 2018

Tired of that “same-ole-same-ole” swim result in your triathlons and wonder just why in the heck those swim splits never really seem to be coming down?

Maybe you ought to consider basing your workouts off threshold pacing…which by pure happenstance, brings me to a discussion of T-pacing and how it’s used to construct swim workouts.

T-pace means “Threshold Pace,” and in layman’s terms, threshold pace refers to the level of intensity needed such that the body is stressed enough to cause an adaptation/improvement in performance.

Now threshold pacing is not just confined to swimming, it’s employed as a means to construct the training parameters in virtually all endurance sports.

The intensity level that defines threshold pacing is typically expressed as a percentage of VO2, as a percentage of maximum heart-rate, or as the time it takes to perform a task over a set distance. Since VO2 testing can be quite expensive, the latter two methods are used much more frequently.

And just for clarification, when we talk about this threshold intensity benchmark, understand that we’re talking about Lactate Threshold (LAT), which coincidentally, is also called Anaerobic Threshold (AT). All these terms refer to the same physiological barometer.

So remember, despite the fact that you might see articles describing this intensity level as an Anaerobic Threshold, they’re still talking about that physiological borderline that separates aerobic activity from anaerobic activity.

Okay, since T-pace is an upper end aerobic pace that can be sustained for a specific time or distance, it serves two purposes. First, if the testing protocol is always the same, one’s T-pace can be used as a measuring stick to track improvements across weeks, months and seasons. And second, T-pace test results can be used to construct workouts.

So, based on one’s swim ability, let’s take a look at three different methods to ascertain T-pace.

3 x 100-yard/meter Method:

This test is applicable for newbie swimmers whose poorer technique and lack of comfort in the pool prevent them from swimming a straight 300 without a major deterioration in form. But also realize that because of its brevity this method has more drawbacks than the latter two.

The participant must swim three consecutive 100s as fast as possible, with a 30 second recovery period between each rep. Caveat here is to make sure the efforts are consistent - like within 5 seconds of each other. Add up the three times and divide by 3. That becomes your T-pace, time per 100 yards/meters.

3 x 300-yard/meter Method:

Tougher than the first method, yet a little less daunting than the third - the 1000-yard time trial - the second method does require good form and technique to swim three consecutively hard 300s, so seed yourself thoughtfully here.

Swim 3 x 300 reps with 30 seconds rest in between. Again, try to maintain even pacing by keeping the times within 15 seconds of each other. Add the three times together, divide the total by nine, and you get your time per 100 yards/meters pace.

1000-yard/meter Time Trial Method:

If you take this test you should be a competent swimmer who posses good endurance and decent form/technique. Also, accept the fact that a great warmup is absolutely necessary prior to a race pace 1000. After the warmup, time and swim 1000 as fast as you can - without blowing up. Divide the time by ten to get your T-pace.

So once you’ve determined your T-pace, you can use it to design swim workouts. And that’s the cool part. Let’s say your T-pace has been calculated to be 2:00 per 100. If you’re a sprint-distance triathlete, you could do race appropriate swim workout that might look like this: 2x(10x50 on 1:45-1:50 w/100 easy between sets).

This workout gives you an objective of swimming those 50s a bit faster than your T-pace. And by swimming these shorter reps that are faster than T-pace, you can concentrate on improving your speed across longer distances.

Retest for T-pace every one to two months and you can continually make adjustments to your workouts.

You see, threshold based swim workouts can catapult those stagnant swim splits into negative territory.

All you have to do is give it a Tri.